Deliverance by Disaster

Based on: Genesis 6:17-18

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.

In the early 1800s the British East India Company controlled much of what is now the country of India.  In 1857 many Hindus rebelled and threatened to kill as many of the English people as they could.  As the rebellion began one young child was separated from her parents. One man went to get her and put her on his horse.  They rode through the riots that had begun in the streets as the the little girl’s rescuer defended her from people who wanted them both dead.  When they reached the girl’s parents, the little girl was furious.  To her the trip was a disaster.  She had been forced away from her friend, held too tightly, and bounced around way to much.  Yet, by this disaster she was delivered from those who would have killed her.  Think about deliverance by disaster as we remember the flood at Noah’s time and as we consider the disasters of our own life.

Two weeks ago we looked at how Adam and Eve sinned.  While standing at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they chose to believe Satan instead of God and now everyone born after them has no choice but to reject God and follow Satan.  God could not allow his creation to suffer.  He promised a Savior.  This Savior would destroy Satan’s work and make us children of God again.  

Adam and Eve trusted in God’s promise of a Savior, but not all of their children did.  With each passing generation, the promise was sometimes passed on and sometimes not.  The Bible tells us that those who trusted the promise often married those who didn’t and usually it was the believer who ended up as an unbeliever rather than the other way around.

Eventually, only eight people were left on the earth who trusted in the promise of a Savior – Noah, his wife, Noah’s three sons, and their wives.  Only eight people out of a population that could have numbered in the billions.  The rest were focused on their own desires and their own life.  They were unconcerned with God’s punishment for sin and so they were unconcerned with God’s promise.  Their thoughts were only of themselves and so God said of mankind, “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all of the time.”

God would end their evil, and by a great disaster God would deliver his eight believers.  

Noah knew very well what was going to happen.  When God told Noah to build the ark, he also told Noah why, “ I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish” (Genesis 6:17).  It wouldn’t happen right away.  In fact, God waited 120 years before sending the flood.  

During that 120 years God never stopped trying to reach people with his promise of a Savior.  Just like every believer, Noah was a spiritual light in the darkness around him.  His obedience to God was a testimony to his faith.  What would you think if your neighbor started building a boat in his backyard (and he didn’t live near a lake).  What if the boat was 450 feet long?  You would think that might attract some attention.

Noah knew why he was building the ark.  He certainly would have told those who asked and the news would have spread even if it was only spread so people could made fun of him.  For years, as Noah was building the ark, it was a huge billboard calling out to the people that God’s punishment was coming.  In mercy, God was calling them to repentance for 120 years.  They should not have been surprised when the water started to rise.

What about you?  Will you be surprised the next time God brings judgment on the earth or when he simply declares that your time on earth is done?  Is someone building an ark while you ignore it or even make fun of it?  The world is full of God’s warnings: cancer and other health problems, relationship problems, accidents, financial problems, death in the news and in the neighborhood, and also the believers who shows their faith like Noah.  For the unbeliever these are all signs of coming judgment.  God is warning them.  For us, as believers, these things that seem like disasters are God’s tools to strengthen faith, to draw our focus away from our own earthly life and our own desires toward God’s promise.  Let us not ignore them.

You know what happened.  Noah and his family got on the ark along with animals of every kind.  The Lord closed the ark and the water came – not a gradual rising of water, but a very violent flooding of the earth.  Great reservoirs of water under the earth erupted from below while the “floodgates of the heavens” opened from above.  For forty days the water kept coming and coming.  After 150 days the water finally began to go away.  And it wasn’t until more than a year after the flood started that the earth was dry enough for Noah and his family to come out of the ark.

All that water caused great destruction and loss of life.  Was it a disaster or was it deliverance?  It was deliverance by disaster.  The very same water that caused so much destruction and death on the face of the earth also lifted the ark and its passengers to a place of safety far above the destruction below.  This flood was God’s means of delivering Noah not only from the disaster taking place on the earth but also of delivering Noah from all the evil that was in the world.

This means of delivering Noah was also a means for bringing about our deliverance.  God still had a promise to keep.  He promised Adam and Eve that the offspring of the woman would destroy Satan’s power.  God promised Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you” (Genesis 6:18).  Through Noah, God would send the Savior into the world and fulfill the promise given to Adam and Eve.  By the disaster of the flood God delivered Noah from the evil of the world so he could also deliver us from evil.

And we need that deliverance.  We have inherited Adam and Eve’s sin and have added to that sin with plenty of our own.  To be honest, we are not any better than the people of Noah’s time.  We focus entirely too much on our own earthly existence and our own earthly desires and not enough on God’s promises.  We deserve to be under the water and not in the ark.

But God has delivered us.  By the disaster of Christ crucified he has delivered us from eternal death.  By the waters of Baptism God has lifted us far above the destruction of hell and has placed us in the ark of his salvation.  

God promised a Savior to Adam and Eve.  He delivered Noah in the flood so that the Savior would come through him. And he sent that promised Savior, Jesus, to live a perfect life for us and suffer the punishment for our sins. Through faith in Jesus created by God himself in our hearts, God assures us of his promise of eternity with him.  By those disasters that come into our life, both big and small, God destroys our ties to this world and directs our attention to his promises of eternity.

One day, when Christ comes again to bring judgment on the whole world, he will raise back to life and raise us up off the ground to meet him in the sky where we will be safe with him.  And while we are safe with him, we will be high above the disaster below as God destroys this sinful world as we know it and creates a new place for us to live – a perfect place, free from all evil.  A place where there are no more disasters, but only the completion of our deliverance.

Amen.

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